Recently, Microsoft pulled its latest line of hipster-esque, socially inclined mobile phones from the shelves, making the Kin one of the shortest-lived models in the history of cell phones. Tepid reviews and flaccid sales brought the Kin to an untimely demise—but it probably didn’t have to be that way. Many users and reviewers had unrealistic expectations about the Kin, and it’s because of what Microsoft failed to mention in their marketing campaign.
The Kin Isn’t a Smartphone
In this high tech mobile market, competitors have to shine in one of two areas: affordability or functionality. The Kin did so in neither department. For one, both Kin phones cost about as much an iPhone, Android or BlackBerry, with a sticker price creeping into the triple digits and a compulsory data plan that makes TCO pretty high. But in spite of costing about as much as a Motorola Cliq or BlackBerry Storm, the Kin doesn’t pack as much technical sexiness as those phones do. That’s because it’s not a smartphone—it’s what they call a "feature phone.” Whereas an Android or Windows Mobile phone can run a wide range of programs and third-party apps, the Kin is by and large a one trick pony. And what’s worse, just about any smartphone that can run Tweetie or Tweetdeck or the official Facebook app does that trick better than the Kin. In other words, the Kin doesn’t deliver very well in terms of bang for buck.
The Kin is Only a Distant Cousin to the Windows Phone 7
With much rumbling buzz about the new Windows Phone 7, you might think that the Kin would be some kind of missing link ancestor between Windows Mobile 6.5 (which was fairly decent) and the next big thing. But as mentioned above, it’s not. There aren’t any apps or games and the browser is somewhat crippled. As described by Microsoft execs, the Kin OS is more like a "fork in the road” to Windows Phone 7, rather than a stop along the way. That is, it takes it in another, decidedly less exciting direction.
The Cloud Backup Feature is Actually Kind of Cool
One groundbreaking feature that the Kin introduced and got right is the cloud back up feature. Essentially, the Kin will automatically backup all your photos, contacts, videos and other important data and store it safely in the cloud—all without pressing a button. So, if you lose your Kin or have your Kin stolen, getting all of your vital data back is an absolute snap. That feature alone is worth touting, particularly to a younger demographic, since today’s phones are more likely than ever to be stolen, broken or abandoned for the next model. But here’s the thing: for all of the air time that Kin got during commercial breaks, Microsoft never really pushed this slick feature. If it did, it may have gotten noticed for the right reasons, rather than making promises in areas that it couldn’t deliver.